Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Friday, November 10, 2006

More on Joy

Whilst many of my fellow bloggers are piling their way through the latest Pynchon, I'm up to page 115 of the new edition of Joy of Cooking. That leaves only 957 pages, not counting the index.

Kim Severson was right--the book has instances of Becker cultishness that are unnecessary. Links to Ethan's knife business and exhortations to visit the Joy website feel contrived. Astonishingly, there is a mistake in the Author's Note:

"In response to many requests from users of the JOY who ask 'are are your favorites?' we having indicated these recipes by using word significant to our family."

Go ahead and call me persnickety, but copyeditor Judith Sutton, thanked in the acknowledgments for her hard work, should perhaps consider another vocation.

The book offers some truly clunky language:

"Arranging a tray is a fun and creative pursuit." (69)

"Now and always, a pot of soup simmering on the stove epitomizes home cooking." (114)

Let's just say Susan Becker is less adept a mimicking Irma than she'd like to think.

Homestyled anecdotes aside, the cookbook delivers on the ultimate Joy promise: to give questioning the cook directions, explanations, and basic recipes. Joy is not Paula Wolfert or Julia Child. it is how to manage a roast, prepare stock, deal with chayote. Don't want to bother with beurre manie? Dump a can of cream of mushroom soup into the pot. Yes, it makes me cringe, but once upon a time I didn't know hollandaise from Hellman's. Now that I do, I usually have the time and knowledge to prepare sauces (or stocks, or biscuits) from scratch. Many people lack inclination, ability, time. But they want to put (mostly) fresh food on the table. This is the book for them. And for me: recently Hockeyman asked if I knew how to make Shepherd's Pie. I did not. But there it is, on page 102. So I'll overlook "Becker Chicken Soup", which distingushes itself from all other soups by dint of curry powder. We'll all hope Ethan and Susan take the hint and don't turn Joy into the cult of Half Moon Ridge.

Rombauber, Becker, and Becker. The Joy of Cooking. Scribers, New York. 2006.

And if they don't...well...look what happened to the Republicans.


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